The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition

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Press:Belknap Press of Harvard University Press Belknap Press; Annotated edition (April 11, 2011)
Publication Date:2011-4-11
Author Name:Oscar Wilde


The Picture of Dorian Gray altered the way Victorians understood the world they inhabited. 
It heralded the end of a repressive Victorianism, and after its publication, literature had—in the words of biographer Richard Ellmann—“a different look.” Yet the Dorian Gray that Victorians never knew was even more daring than the novel the British press condemned as “vulgar,” “unclean,” “poisonous,” “discreditable,” and “a sham.” Now, more than 120 years after Wilde handed it over to his publisher, J.
Lippincott & Company, Wilde’s uncensored typescript is published for the first time, in an annotated, extensively illustrated edition.The novel’s first editor, J.
Stoddart, excised material—especially homosexual content—he thought would offend his readers’ sensibilities.
When Wilde enlarged the novel for the 1891 edition, he responded to his critics by further toning down its “immoral” elements.
The differences between the text Wilde submitted to Lippincott and published versions of the novel have until now been evident to only the handful of scholars who have examined Wilde's typescript.Wilde famously said that Dorian Gray “contains much of me”: Basil Hallward is “what I think I am,” Lord Henry “what the world thinks me,” and “Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.” Wilde’s comment suggests a backward glance to a Greek or Dorian Age, but also a forward-looking view to a more permissive time than his own, which saw Wilde sentenced to two years’ hard labor for gross indecency.
The appearance of Wilde’s uncensored text is cause for celebration.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 
First published in 1890 in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine and the following year in novel form, The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature.
An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself—exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate)—and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld.
The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the US and UK at the time.
Intriguing annotations allude to Wilde's influences and enterprising range of reference, incorporating art, poetry, literature, Greek mythology, philosophy, and fashion (certain to inspire further reading; an appendix is provided).
Comparisons are drawn between Dorian Gray and Wilde's other literary output, as well as to the work of Walter Pater.
Numerous illustrations subtly compliment Frankelÿs inferences.
A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up-"The Whole Story" format provides illustrations and  annotations to the classic text. 
Ross's lively and sophisticated cartoons add interest, and historical information helps readers place the novel in proper context and gives insight into its characters.
The problem with this attractive, glossy layout, however, is that the text and the quotes pulled from it are not always on the same page.
Further, some illustrations and notations visually cut into the narrative and may distract readers.
For example, a drawing appears on the first page along with the passage, "In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty," but that quote does not appear until the second page of the story.
Useful as a supplement to the original novel, but not a replacement for it.Karen Hoth, Marathon Middle/High School, FL Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

This Broadview edition includes Wilde's full text along with an introduction, a chronology of Wilde's life, and several appendixes. 
All that for $9.95 makes this a steal.Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Nicholas Frankel has done a great service to Oscar Wilde's readers in preparing this new edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray. 
His introduction and annotations deepen our understanding not only of Wilde the writer but of the political and sexual milieu in which he lived and published.
This is the kind of scholarship that reminds us why scholarship matters.
(David Leavitt)Frankel's extensive annotations reveal that the homoerotic qualities of the novel are deeply encoded within it and cannot be excised by the removal of a few phrases...If the restored text is interesting primarily as a social document of what was and was not permissible in England in the 1890s, it poignantly reveals an author desperately at war with his society and with himself.
(Ruth Franklin New Republic online 2011-03-23)In pages redolent of fin-de-siecle languor and sparkling with bons mots, Wilde's only novel raises several seriously troubling questions: If one could live a life of absolute freedom, would the result be happiness or a nightmare? How much of our complex selves do we deny or sacrifice to conventional morality? ...This Harvard edition of the untouched typescript is thus a necessary acquisition for any serious student of Wilde's work...After this enthralling novel has left you shaken and disturbed, look for deeper understanding in Nicholas Frankel's superb annotated edition.
(Michael Dirda Washington Post 2011-03-31)This edition gives us a chance to read Wilde's text in a form as close as possible to the way he meant it to appear.
(Sarah Boslaugh PopMatters 2011-03-31)The Picture of Dorian Gray categorically changed Victorian Britain and the landscape of literature.
An ostentatious, self-confessed aesthete, known for his wit and intellect, Wilde not only had to endure his prose being labeled "poisonous" and "vulgar," but also suffer its use as evidence in the ensuing trial, resulting in his eventual imprisonment for crimes of "gross indecency." Frankel's introduction provides a deft preliminary analysis of the novel itself--exploring etymology and extensive editorial alterations (both accidental and deliberate)--and offers valuable insight into the socio-cultural juxtaposition of aristocratic Victorian society and the London underworld.
The original typescript provides the unique opportunity to examine what was considered acceptable in both the U.S.
and UK at the time...A fine contextualization of a major work of fiction profoundly interpreted, ultimately riveting.
(Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2011-04-04)There is a good argument that the published version of the novel is not quite true to its author's intent or achievement, and Nicholas Frankel, who teaches English at Virginia Commonwealth University, has now set things right--and in handsome fashion.
He has skillfully restored Wilde's original version, and in the manner of other great annotated editions, supplied readers with everything anyone would need to know about Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and their lives and times...The entire product--novel and critical/biographical material--makes fascinating reading.
(Philip Terzian Weekly Standard 2011-04-02)Like Harvard University Press's other beautiful annotated editions of classics, this is both handsome and instructive.
(David Azzolina Library Journal 2011-05-01)A richly annotated and illustrated volume edited by Nicholas Frankel.
It is not often that a piece of serious scholarship is accorded such deluxe treatment, and in this case it is a cause for real celebration, for Frankel has provided a wealth of supplemental material and visual matter, as well as a "Textual Introduction" and a series of notes that explain references and cultural context, help the reader understand the editing processes, and point out the passages that were singled out for deletion...This annotated version [is] a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism.
(Brooke Allen Barnes & Noble Review 2011-04-26)Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray may have outraged Victorian society even more had his editor not deleted sections of his original text...These passages and others deemed risky 120 years ago now appear for the first time.
(Nicholas Clee The Times 2011-05-07)Splendid...Profusely illustrated and annotated, the edition's most interesting feature will be a comparison of the original hand-emended typescript with the two main published versions, each of which toned down the novel in a vain effort to avoid the notoriety that descended on both the work and its author...Frankel's edition is a major contribution to the studies of Wilde and of late Victorian legal, sexual, and social contexts...Required reading for students and scholars of Wilde and his period.
(George Bornstein Times Literary Supplement 2011-06-17)In this day of Kindles, e-books and tweets, this is truly a magnificent job of bookmaking.
Oversized, lavishly illustrated and gorgeously presented, Oscar would have loved it.
The text is examined minutely, with a variety of comparisons from various publications of the novel, as well as Wilde's original manuscript...The scholarship is both astounding and informative.
The annotator and editor, Nicholas Frankel, easily and effortlessly places the modern reader in Wilde's time and place, London's late Victorian Age in London.
There is still a tingle to Dorian's story of endless debauchery while he remains looking pure and innocent for decades and the painting ages and grows monstrous, reflecting his sins and crimes.
Strangely, the book seems more modern than one would imagine.
Rather than merely a potboiler from two centuries back, Wilde's genius imbues the story with a strange and haunting immediacy, and a cautionary tale for us all: Be careful what you wish for.
One could hardly wish for a more beautifully accoutered book.
(Alan W.
Petrucelli Pittsburgh Examiner 2011-06-29)There is much to be appreciated in this handsome scholarly edition...Frankel [is] an accomplished guide and this edition an elegant resource that enables us to admire all the more deeply the portrait and the artist.
(Richard Gibson Books & Culture 2011-07-01)The version that Wilde submitted to Lippincott's [published for the first time by Harvard University Press] is the better fiction.
It has the swift and uncanny rhythm of a modern fairy tale--and Dorian is the greatest of Wilde's fairy tales.
(Alex Ross New Yorker 2011-08-08)It's a revelatory exercise to examine the text of Wilde's original typescript...It yields a deeper understanding of its author and of the hypocrisy and intolerance of late-Victorian English society which led to his two-year imprisonment for "gross indecency."...With this landmark edition we have the opportunity, until now denied us, to read what the author originally wrote.
It unquestionably belongs on every Wildean's shelves.
(Joel Greenberg The Australian 2011-07-30)Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray has the distinction of being one of the few pieces of literature that grew longer by way of being censored...It's seven chapters longer than his original version, which now appears for the first time from Harvard University Press by way of a brilliant scholarly presentation of the typescript Wilde submitted to the Philadelphia office of Lippincott's magazine...The typescript (in the UCLA library, but published for the first time here) is, besides truer to Wilde's original intentions, a vastly better novel than the one Lippincott's Monthly Magazine published, say nothing of the much expanded version England's Ward, Lock and Company brought out the next year, the one most of us know.
To call Wilde's earlier version leaner would miss the flavor and point of this aestheticism-drenched work, but it's a swifter, bolder, more uncompromising, less moralistic and in every respect more affecting work than its edited, rewritten, or otherwise censored versions.
Who would have thought a scholarly edition would be the one to have? But everything about Nicholas Frankel's revelatory new edition of the typescript of The Picture of Dorian Gray is game-changing.
Reading it is like viewing a painting by Michelangelo--one of the great artists Wilde named while explaining what he meant by the phrase "the love that dare not speak its name" (to cheers of applause from some in the gallery) in the 1895 court trial--returned to its original glory by deeply knowledgeable, painstaking art restorers.
If it did nothing more, Frankel's exhaustively researched book would be a dream presentation of any edition of Dorian Gray, lavishly illustrated with relevant art of the period, including priceless photographs that bring the details of Wilde's book, amazingly now 120 years old, to vivid life.
The typescript text is larded with footnotes I'm tempted to describe as being as absorbing as Wilde's writing, except that no one's writing is more captivating than Wilde's, as Frankel would be the first to agree...Entry by entry, Frankel's painstaking explication of the culture Wilde's writing was both a product of, and immeasurably advanced, makes this dense, brilliant book comprehensible...Once through this seminal text with all its notes, illustrations, and explanations, the drive is to go back and re-read the typescript (easily recognized by its larger typeface) all over again, just because it's such a terrific book.
(Tim Pfaff Bay Area Reporter 2011-08-25)We now have an uncensored Dorian, which is very exciting...[It's] a beautifully produced volume: lots of white space, helpful annotations, crisp color illustrations and photographs.
(Nikolai Endres Victorians 2011-05-01)[A] superbly annotated new edition of Wilde's novel.
(Colm Tóibín London Review of Books 2012-05-10)

From the Publisher

Here in one volume are his immensely popular  novel, The  Picture Of Dorian Gray ;  his last literary work, the Ballad Of   Reading Goal, a product of his own prison  experience; and four  complete plays:Lady  Windermere's Fan, his first dramatic   success; An Ideal Husband, which  continued to poke fun at  conventional  morality; The Importance Of Being Earnest, his   finest comedy; and Salome, a  portrait of uncontrollable love  originally written in  French, now in a new translation by Richard  Elman. 
Every selection appears in its entirely--a marvelous collection of outstanding works by the incomparable Oscar Wilde, whom Max Beerbohm so aptly labeled "a lord of language."

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Flamboyant and controversial, Oscar Wilde was a dazzling personality, a master of wit, and a dramatic genius whose sparkling comedies contain some of the most brilliant dialogue ever written for the English stage. 
Here in one volume are his immensely popular novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray; his last literary work, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," a product of his own prison experience; and four complete plays: Lady Windermere's Fan, his first dramatic success, "An Ideal Husband, which pokes fun at conventional morality, "The Importance of Being Earnest, his finest comedy, and "Salome, a portrait of uncontrollable love originally written in French and faithfully translated by Richard Ellmann.
Every selection appears in its entirety-a marvelous collection of outstanding works by the incomparable Oscar Wilde, who's been aptly called "a lord of language" by Max Beerbohm.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Spellbound before his own portrait, Dorian Gray utters a fateful wish. 
In exchange for eternal youth he gives his soul, to be corrupted by the malign influence of his mentor, the aesthete and hedonist Lord Henry Wotton.
The novel was met with moral outrage by contemporary critics who, dazzled perhaps by Wilde's brilliant style, may have confused the author with his creation, Lord Henry, to whom even Dorian protests, 'You cut life to pieces with your epigrams.'.
Encouraged by Lord Henry to substitute pleasure for goodness and art for reality, Dorian tries to watch impassively as he brings misery and death to those who love him.
But the picture is watching him, and, made hideous by the marks of sin, it confronts Dorian with the reflection of his fall from grace, the silent bearer of what is in effect a devastating moral judgement.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Nicholas Frankel is Associate Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

CHAPTER IThe studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters of Tokio who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. 
The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive.
The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.In the centre of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.As the painter looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there.
But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake."It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry, languidly.
"You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor.
The Academy is too large and too vulgar.
Whenever I have gone there, there have been either so many people that I have not been able to see the pictures, which was dreadful, or so many pictures that I have not been able to see the people, which was worse.
The Grosvenor is really the only place." "I don't think I shall send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford.
"No: I won't send it anywhere."Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette.
"Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation.
As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away.
It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion.""I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit it I have put too much of myself into it."Lord Henry stretched himself out on the divan and laughed.
"Yes, I knew you would; but it is quite true, all the same.""Too much of yourself in it!  Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made out of ivory and rose-leaves.
Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you — well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that.
But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins.
Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.
The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid.
Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions.
How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church.
But then in the Church they don't think.
A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful.
Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks.
I feel quite sure of that.
He is some brainless, beautiful creature, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence.
Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him."You don't understand me, Harry," answered the artist.
"Of course I am not like him.
I know that perfectly well.
Indeed, I should be sorry to look like him.
You shrug your shoulders? I am telling you the truth.
There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction, the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings.
It is better not to be different from one's fellows.
The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world.
They can sit at their ease and gape at the play.
If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat.
They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet.
They neither bring ruin upon others, nor ever receive it from alien hands.
Your rank and wealth, Harry; my brains, such as they are — my art, whatever it may be worth; Dorian Gray's good looks — we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.""Dorian Gray? Is that his name?" asked Lord Henry, walking across the studio towards Basil Hallward."Yes, that is his name.
I didn't intend to tell it to you.""But why not?""Oh, I can't explain.
When I like people immensely I never tell their names to any one.
It is like surrendering a part of them.
I have grown to love secrecy.
It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us.
The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it.
When I leave town now I never tell my people where I am going.
If I did, I would lose all my pleasure.
It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance to one's life.
I suppose you think me awful foolish about it?""Not at all," answered Lord Henry, "not at all, my dear Basil.
You seem to forget that I am married, and the one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.
I never know where my wife is, and my wife never knows what I am doing.
When we meet — we do meet occasionally, when we dine out together, or go down to the Duke's — we tell each other the most absurd stories with the most serious faces.
My wife is very good at it, much better, in fact, than I am.
She never gets confused over her dates, and I always do.
But when she does find me out, she makes no row at all.
I sometimes wish she would; but she merely laughs at me.""I hate the way you talk about your married life, Harry," said Basil Hallward, strolling towards the door that led into the garden.
"I believe that you are really a very good husband, but that you are thoroughly ashamed of your own virtues.
You are an extraordinary fellow.
You never say a moral thing, and you never do a wrong thing.
Your cynicism is simply a pose.""Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know," cried Lord Henry, laughing; and the two young men went out into the garden together, and ensconced themselves on a long bamboo seat that stood in the shade of a tall laurel bush.
The sunlight slipped over the polished leaves.
In the grass, white daisies were tremulous.After a pause, Lord Henry pulled out his watch.
"I am afraid I must be going, Basil," he murmured, "and before you go, I insist on your answering a question I put to you some time ago.""What is that?" said the painter, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground."You know quite well.""I do not, Harry.""Well, I will tell you what it is.
I want you to explain to me why you won't exhibit Dorian Gray's picture.
I want the real reason.""I told you the real reason.""No you did not.
You said it was because there was too much of yourself in it.
Now, that is childish.""Harry," said Basil Hallward, looking him straight in the face, "every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion.
It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.
The reason I will not exhibit the picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my soul."Lord Henry laughed.
"And what is that?" he asked."I will tell you," said Hallward; but an expression of perplexity came over his face."I am all expectation, Basil," continued his companion, glancing at him."Oh, there is really very little to tell, Harry," answered the painter; "and I am afraid you will hardly understand it.
Perhaps you will hardly believe it."Lord Henry smiled, and, leaning down, plucked a pink-petalled daisy from the grass, and examined it.
"I am quite sure I shall understand it," he replied, gazing intently at the little golden white-feathered disk, "and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible."The wind shook some blossoms from the trees, and the heavy lilac-blooms, with their clustering stars, moved to and fro in the languid air.
A grasshopper began to chirrup by the wall, and like a blue thread a long thing dragon-fly floated past on its brown gauze wings.
Lord Henry felt as if he could hear Basil Hallward's heart beating, and wondered what was coming."The story is simply this," and the painter after some time.
"Two months ago I went to a crush at Lady Brandon's.
You know we poor artists have to show ourselves in society from time to time, just to remind the public that we are not savages.
With an evening coat and a white tie, as you told me once, anybody, even a stockbroker, can gain a reputation for being civilized.
Well, after I had been in the room about ten minutes, talking to huge over-dressed dowagers and tedious Academicians, I suddenly became conscious that some one was looking at me.
I turned half-way round, and saw Dorian Gray for the first time.
When our eyes met, I felt that I was growing pale.
A curious sensation of terror came over me.
I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my soul, my very art itself.
I did not want any external influence in my life.
You know I did not want any external influence in my life.
I have always been my own master; had at least always been so, till I met Dorian Gray.
Then— but I don't know how to explain it to you.
Something seemed to tell me that I was on the verge of a terrible crisis in my life.
I had a strange feeling that Fate had in store for me exquisite joys and exquisite sorrows.
I grew afraid, and turned to quite the room.
It was not conscience that made me do so; it was a sort of cowardice.
I take no credit to myself for trying to escape.""Conscience and cowardice are really the same things, Basil.
Conscience is the trade-name of the firm.
That is all.""I don't believe that, Harry, and I don't believe you do either.
However, whatever was my motive — and it may have been pride, for I used to be very proud — I certainly struggled to the door.
There, of course, I stumbled against Lady Brandon.
'You are not going to run away so soon, Mr.
Hallward?' she screamed out.
You know her curiously shrill voice?" "Yes; she is a peacock in everything but beauty," said Lord Henry, pulling the daisy to bits with his long, nervous fingers."I could not get rid of her.
She brought me up to Royalties, and people with Stars and Garters, and elderly ladies with gigantic tiaras and parrot noses.
She spoke of me as her dearest friend.
I had only met her once before, but she took it into her head to lionize me.
I believe some picture of mine had made a great success at the time, at least had been chattered about in the penny newspapers, which is the nineteenth-century standard of immortality.
Suddenly I found myself face to face with the young man whose personality had so strangely stirred me.
We were quite close, almost touching.
Our eyes met again.
It was reckless of me, but I asked Lady Brandon to introduce me to him.
perhaps it was not so reckless, after all.
It was simply inevitable.
We would have spoken to each other without any introduction.
I am sure of that.
Dorian told me so afterwards.
He, too, felt that we were destined to know each other."

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde endures with its gems of astute observation and cynical wit. 
The eerie story follows a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty in the form of a supernatural portrait.
Life's mysterious paradoxes are laced throughout Lord Henry's brilliant aphorisms.
Gray is urged by Henry to "love the wonderful life that is in you." The novel's classic qualities are mired in decadence, "art for art's sake," the new hedonism of the Victorian-era upper class, and societal moral corruption.
Simon Prebble perfectly achieves Lord Henry's "low, languid voice" and sparkling conversation, while avidly expressing the other characters' more torrid emotions.
Prebble brings the fable's gothic horror to life, but the more youthful characters lack believable intonation.
© AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     It's ok
  •     I'm not sure what my expectations were having never read but only watched various versions of Dorian Gray in shows, none of which were accurately faithful to the book. I could see how this would have been considered too risque for audiences at the time it was first published, which makes it an interesting note on how much society has changed. The book was slow moving for about the first 40% of the book and did not even move Dorian's story along. It was almost entirely about Lord Henry Wotton and a bit about Dorian, then when it did change perspectives to Dorian it still took a bit to get to the picture's importance. A good portion of the second half of the book was a litany of the "things" that Dorian would obsess over. To be honest I would skim over these and it was fine because all the detail was not necessary. Not a bad book but not a great read either. Simply a provocative book for an era long gone.
  •     A classic in every respect.
  •     <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray</i> is the masterpiece of Oscar Wilde. It is a classic fiction written in the Victorian Age.
  •     Interesting and intriguing view point. It kept me wanting to read more. I loved it!
  •     This was easily one of the best books I have ever read. This book was written over a century ago and still remains popular and insightful.
  •     great read
  •     I almost never leave reviews on classic books, because I figure said books are classics for a reason. Their quality is assured if they've stood the test of time and remain well-known after all these years, right? Even in the case of "classics" that I don't enjoy for whatever reason, such as "Tess of the D'ubervilles," I figure it's merely a case of personal preference and not quality. So it's with some degree of hesitation that I leave a review on such a classic as "The Picture of Dorian Gray," one of Oscar Wilde's best-known works. It's been hailed as a riveting psychological thriller/horror novel, and I figure there must be something to that praise if the book has managed to endure for over a century. Still, I figure that even the words of a modern-day Amazon reviewer should be worth something, even if it's just to deliver a personal opinion.I can see why this book is considered a classic -- it has a lot to say about the human condition, not much of it good, and the horror elements are subtle but well-done. All the same, this book isn't for everyone, and getting through the first half of the book takes a LOT of perseverance.The titular Dorian Gray is a wealthy young man in the prime of his life, considered astonishingly handsome and charming by everyone he meets. When his friend Basil, a painter, creates a portrait of him, Gray mourns that the painting will always be more beautiful than he is and makes a half-serious wish that the painting will age instead of him. To Gray's shock, his wish comes true -- he remains handsome and young-looking, but the figure in his portrait withers and grays with age and vice. At first Gray is delighted by this, but as time passes -- and he falls under the sway of the decadent and reckless Lord Harry -- he starts to feel cursed. And as he lives a life of indulgence and vice, his past crimes begin to catch up to him in ways he could never have imagined...I'll start with the bad regarding this book. Wilde might have been considered a master satirist in his day, but at times it feels like he's in love with the sound of his own voice, especially here. Much of the book is reserved for philosophical discussions between characters regarding the nature of sin, humanity, pleasure, and virtue. And the character who does most of the talking, Lord Harry, has some dismal and downright dangerous things to say about all of the above. It's hard to know if Wilde sincerely believed what he was writing (about pleasure and indulgence being the chief meaning of life and love being a silly, fleeting thing) or if it's just him getting deeply into the head of his decadent antagonist, but all the same it makes for uncomfortable (and often boring) writing. Plus all this philosophizing pads out the length of the book, and makes it so not much of anything plotworthy really happens until the book's midpoint.Also, about two-thirds of the way through the book we get a sudden aside about all the things Gray purchases with his considerable wealth -- and these objects are described in great detail. While I can see that this was Wilde's attempt to show how extravagant Gray's lifestyle had become, it feels like a pointless aside tome.Once one gets past the endless dialogue, however, one finds a quietly chilling story of psychological horror. A creative premise of a painting aging in place of its subject is used quite effectively, and the book builds slowly but surely to its shocking climax. Gray is not exactly a sympathetic character -- he's self-centered and vain even before Lord Harry hooks his claws into him -- but he has his redeeming qualities, and it's hard not to feel his shock and fear as he discovers the secrets of the painting and how his vices are displayed on the canvas for anyone to see. The book's finale is probably obvious by now, given how old this book is, but I won't spoil it just in case...While definitely not for everyone, and a rather slow read compared to modern-day thrillers, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" is still a fascinating psychological thriller, and it's definitely worth a read. Just be prepared for a slow first half...
  •     Doesn't speed up until chapter 12. Makes you think about how influence can affect people and how much people care about art and pleasure.
  •     This is a classic with so much meaning. The underlying themes of passion, sin, guilt, and facing the consequences of ones actions, quite literally in this case is excellent.
  •     It's a fantastic story that lingers in the imagination long after you've finished reading.
  •     I am getting very tired of ordering what I think are professionally prepared books and finding that they are print-on-demand works probably put together by one person that do not adhere to certain standards of the book industry.In this case, the title refers to "other writings" but it does not seem to contain any other writings. In any case, it is hard to tell because there is no table of contents. Chapters do not begin on a new page but (to save money) a new chapter will begin anywhere on the page.Sometimes there are smart quotes. Sometimes there are unformatted quotation marks.Margins are very close to the edges of the pages, again to save money.Most troubling, the original Bantam edition was about 450 pages; this edition is 190 pages.So, I would recommend you go with a name brand publisher instead of ordering this version.Why did I not give it one or two stars? Because I did not notice typos and the entire text of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" appears to be contained here, plus the front and back covers, which contain old portraits of the author, are attractive.
  •     I would not presume to critique Oscar Wilde's work; it is obviously masterful. The Audible rendition here was very good, in keeping with the period of the piece, with good...

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